The Madrid-born youngster recently made his Manchester United debut and is being tipped to feature more regularly at Old Trafford in the year ahead
Even though Alejandro Garnacho's senior football career can, for now, be measured in a matter of minutes, he already belongs to a select group. At the tender age of 17, he is able to count both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as teammates, thus becoming the youngest member of a club which includes the likes of Carlos Tevez, Gerard Pique and Angel Di Maria.
The young forward was called up to Argentina's senior squad in March and posted a picture of himself alongside Messi on his Instagram account after training with him. Back at Manchester United, where his eye-catching form in the youth ranks has seen him reach the fringes of the first team, he was gifted Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick ball after the recent win against Norwich.
With good reason, excitement around the youngster's development is beginning to build at United. He has played a starring role in the club's run to a first FA Youth Cup final in over a decade, scoring five times in five games en route.
He showcased his searing pace and cool head in front of goal during the fifth round tie against Everton, with footage of his late solo goal widely shared on social media, prompting some to draw comparisons with Gareth Bale. A double against Leicester in the quarter final followed, with another goal against Wolves helping United to a place in the final against Nottingham Forest.
Garnacho's form has been enough to encourage United interim boss Ralf Rangnick to invite him to join first team training. Named on the bench for several recent Premier League games, he was given his debut in the dying moments of the 1-1 draw with Chelsea, wearing the number 75 on his back.
Alejandro Garnacho 🔥 pic.twitter.com/bf5EnB4EWo
— utdreport Academy (@utdreportAcad) February 9, 2022
Garnacho left Atletico Madrid to join United
Garnacho was born and raised in Madrid. Aged 10, he joined the youth ranks of Atletico Madrid, spending five years with the club, despite being rumoured to have an affection for their great rivals, Real Madrid.
Though - as is usually the case with young players - his talents were very raw, Atleti coaching staff knew from quite early on that Garnacho had the potential to develop into something special. It came as a disappointment when, in June 2020, he announced that he would leave the club to continue his development elsewhere when he turned 16.
Despite interest from Real and Borussia Dortmund, it was later confirmed that he would move to Manchester. A compensation fee of close to £500,000 was agreed and his move to Old Trafford came after United agreed similar deals to bring in Alvaro Fernandez from Real and Marc Jurado from Barcelona.
Garnacho's call-up for Argentina
Despite his upbringing in Spain, Garnacho has dual nationality and qualifies to represent Argentina through his mother. Throughout his childhood, he supported both countries at international level and, prior to being called up for Argentina, represented Spain at Under 18 level as recently as last December.
Argentina confirmed their place at this year's Qatar World Cup after a goalless draw with Brazil last autumn. Lionel Scaloni's side still had several qualifiers remaining after that, giving them the opportunity to try and secure some talented youngsters for future selection.
Garnacho, along with Lazio's Luka Romero, who also qualifies for Mexico and Spain, and Inter Milan duo Valentin and Franco Carboni, who both represented Italy at youth level, was named in a provisional 44-man squad in March. He remained part of the squad when it was trimmed to 33. Though he did not feature for Scaloni's side, Garnacho was given his first appearance for La Albiceleste at Under 20 level.
Javier Mascherano, now coach of Argentina's U20s, played him for 70 minutes of a 2-2 draw with the United States. The former Liverpool and Barcelona midfielder played an instrumental role in persuading Garnacho to play for Argentina, keeping in regular contact with him after their interest in him was first made known several months ago. Speaking to United's in-house media shortly after his call-up was confirmed, Garnacho thanked him for the help he had given.
Ronaldo has helped mentor Garnacho since he joined the United first team
The teenager also expressed his gratitude towards several members of United's coaching staff, including Under 18s coach, Travis Binnion, Under 23s coaches Neil Wood and Neil Ryan, Head of Player Development and Coaching, Justin Cochrane and Technical Director, Darren Fletcher.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who Garnacho grew up idolising, has also helped mentor him since he began training with the United first team. He recently followed the Portugal captain by agreeing a sponsorship deal with Nike.
The FA Youth Cup Final offers Garnacho another chance to show why so many are tipping him for a bright future. With Erik ten Hag set to take charge at Old Trafford in the summer and several first team members set to depart, more opportunities seem likely in the year to come.
With thanks to Euan McTear